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06/23/07 12:00 AM ET

A-Rod will pass on Home Run Derby

MLB's leading slugger doesn't want to affect swing

SAN FRANCISCO -- Alex Rodriguez says he loves everything about AT&T Park: the modern yet classic structure of the facility, the China Basin location, the vibe that exudes feelings of a West Coast New York.

Well, almost everything. Rodriguez, the Major Leagues' leading vote-getter for the July 10 All-Star Game at San Francisco, revealed Friday that he has no intention of participating in this year's Home Run Derby.

"I've never been good at it, No. 1," Rodriguez said. "I'm going to enjoy watching it this year. I'll have a good seat. I've worked hard for my swing and I definitely don't want to let anything get in the way of it. My only responsibility this year is to the New York Yankees."

Rodriguez, batting .315 with a Major League-leading 73 RBIs and 67 runs scored, appears to be a lock to start at third base for Jim Leyland's American League club in the Midsummer Classic.

With 27 blasts entering the Yankees' series at San Francisco, Rodriguez also leads the big leagues in that category, but said he will opt to keep his cuts on ice during the popular home run hitting experience.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said that the club does not encourage players to participate, but it is also not discouraged.

"There are no good habits you can have [from participating]," Torre said. "Alex is pretty special because he's one of the few guys who can just hit the ball to straightaway center field and out of the ballpark.

"The fans love it. But again, when you're going about grooving your swing, it's probably not the ideal plate practice to have."

The decision hasn't soured Rodriguez's experience in San Francisco, a stadium where he'd logged six hits in 11 previous at-bats, including a home run, entering Friday's series opener.

In a facility where so much revolves around a singular player, Barry Bonds -- a countdown of Bonds' pursuit of 755 home runs is always available on the wall in right-center field, and also in the windows of a plaza outside the home plate entrance -- Rodriguez used the opportunity to voice what he cautioned might be an unpopular opinion regarding Bonds' ongoing candidacy for the All-Star team.

"One hundred percent, I think the game needs it," Rodriguez said. "This is not popular for a lot of people, but Barry Bonds is probably the greatest player that's ever put on a uniform. He's awesome."

Of course, with the Yankees in town to see Bonds and the Giants, chatter has been frequent concerning who might eventually top Bonds once he does hit the seven remaining home runs necessary to tie Hank Aaron's record of 755.

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The popular choice remains Rodriguez, who needs nine home runs to join the 500 home run club at age 32, the fastest pace of any player in history. Even Bonds agreed in Spring Training, telling reporters to "call Alex" regarding the possibility of someone hitting 800 home runs.

For Rodriguez, those were topics best left to another day, brushing them away the same way he might turn on an impeding fastball.

"I'm not worried about that," Rodriguez said. "I'm concerned about winning a game tonight. It's hard to really think about individual things when you're really trying to win. I got to this point by thinking about the team. This is Barry's time, not my time."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.